There was a sense of relief that the Cleveland Browns didn’t sign Mike Wallace last off-season after the details of his contract emerged. The fact is, as badly as the Cleveland Browns needed help at receiver, it was an absurdly large contract. How absurd? Now that there’s been a shakeup in the Dolphins front office there are rumors via Jason La Canfora that the Dolphins would like to explore the idea of taking an $8.8 million cap hit for the right to trade Wallace right now. So, without advocating it, I thought it might be interesting to look at the financial implications of trading for Wallace.
I’ve often pointed out that the Browns are taking a giant cap hit for trading Trent Richardson, but they at least got a first-round pick from the Colts. In order for the Dolphins to get a trade partner, they’ll have to take an afterthought kind of draft pick, possibly even a sixth- or seventh-round choice, I’m guessing. Then they’ll blow $8.8 million remaining on Wallace’s signing bonus on their cap this year. That’s somewhat helpful for the team receiving Wallace’s services as they don’t have to pay that money. Still, Wallace’s existing deal is big.
Here’s how Wallace’s contract plays out for the rest of the duration according to Spotrac.
- 2014 $15 million ($50,000 in misc bonus)
- 2015 $9.85 million ($50,000 in misc bonus)
- 2016 $11.45 million ($50,000 in misc bonus)
- 2017 $11.45 million ($50,000 in misc bonus)
No matter how you slice and dice it, it’s safe to say that you’re going to be overpaying for Mike Wallace. This might be especially unwise to do in a season like the Browns are facing with as many draft picks as they have in such a reputedly “receiver rich” draft class. Those caveats aside, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First of all, if the Browns trade for Wallace, he’s just a hired gun with only a $3 million guarantee after 2014. That’s a heft price tag for one year to be sure and probably not worth it to even the most receiving-starved team in the league.
But, there’s also an option to convert those guaranteed dollars to a signing bonus. Let’s say you give the Dolphins a seventh rounder in exchange for Wallace and then upon getting him in Cleveland, you convert $10 million of his 2014 salary to signing bonus. Now his contract looks like this:
- 2014 $5 million salary + $2.5 million signing bonus + $50k misc bonus = $7.5 million cap number
- 2015 $9.85 million salary + $2.5 million signing bonus + $50k = $12.35 million cap
- 2016 $11.45 million salary + $2.5 million signing bonus + $50k = $13.95 million cap
- 2017 $11.45 million salary + $2.5 million signing bonus + $50k = $13.95 million cap
The other thing to keep in mind is that the Browns have Josh Gordon under his rookie deal until the end of the 2015 season. That might make it a bit more palatable to overpay for a guy like Mike Wallace for two years. Then if you cut him after that so you can extend Gordon, the Browns have to take a $5 million cap hit in dead money to get out of paying him just north of $22 million over the next two years. The Browns will have paid Wallace basically $25 million in cash for two years of service, which is a whole lot. Still, it’s a bet on Mike Wallace as he finishes his twenties and before he hits his thirties.
I don’t expect this is something the Browns will do after laying it all out, but it’s still a fun exercise. And if the Browns did decide to overpay to have Mike Wallace for a couple years, it’s more fun to look at it from their perspective than the Dolphins’ perspective. They’re the team that’s currently on the hook for a guy who is scheduled to count over $17 million on their cap this season. He also represents a figure of $23.8 million in dead money if the Dolphins were to cut him outright. Not an enviable position for a team with a receiver who didn’t break 1000 yards and scored only five touchdowns in his first season on his contract.